Foundation and Chaos

Page 23

Plussix nodded. “An understandable wish. Not to be granted, now that you are here, for reasons I’m sure you understand.”

“You think I could tell the others where you are. The woman who hunts us.”

“That is a possibility.”

“But I wouldn’t, I swear it!”

“I appreciate your candor, Klia Asgar, and I hope you appreciate mine. We are in a kind of war here. You wish to survive the consequences of an irrational force being exerted by unknown figures. I have my means and my ends. You and your brothers and sisters here are my means. My ends are not evil, nor are they destructive. They have to do with free will and the exercise of freedom, which I’m sure you find ironic, under the circumstances.”

Klia tossed her hair back and clamped her jaw. “Yeah,” she said tightly.

“You have heard all this before,” Plussix said. There was not a trace of irony or humor in his voice, little trace of any emotion at all. The man’s words were clear and concise and altogether a little cold.

“It’s what all the tyrants say,” Klia said.

“Yes. But here, there are benefits to my kind of tyranny. You eat regularly, you do not have to steal or cheat to live, and you stay out of the way of people who would hurt you--for the time being, until you are ready.”

“Ready to do what?”

“From your point of view, to get back at those who have disrupted your life.”

“I don’t care about them. Maybe I’ll go with the others and leave this planet for good.”

Plussix gave the faintest smile.

Klia’s face flushed. She had hoped for relief; all she faced here, it seemed, was another kind of pressure. Until now, she had run before the wave; here, she was squeezed between that wave and an apparently unyielding surface: Plussix.

“Please think, and take your time. There are good people here, and friendly. The duties are light. The opportunities for education and self-improvement are many. Physical training, continuing your schooling--many opportunities indeed.”

As Plussix spoke these words, Klia read in his tone pleasure, a relaxed and natural presence, for the first time in their brief interview.

“Are you a teacher?” she asked abruptly.

“Yes, of a kind,” Plussix said.

“From Imperial schools?”

“No,” Plussix said. “I have never taught in Imperial schools. Now, may I ask you a few important questions?”

Klia looked up at the ceiling and did not answer, then felt foolish. “Sure. Go ahead.”

“How long have you been aware of your persuasive abilities?”

“I get along. That’s all I do.”

“Please. Kallusin assures me you’re among the most talented he’s encountered.”

“Since I was a little child,” Klia said. “I don’t remember when. I didn’t know everybody wasn’t like me until a few years ago.”

“Your father is a widower?”

“My mother died when I was four. I miss her.” And why tell this ghost about your feelings?

“You have been on your own for how many years?”

“Three years.”

“Doing jobs for various people. Acting as courier, seeking out information...other jobs? Illegal jobs, sometimes unethical as well, beneath your standards?”

Klia looked away from the image and clasped her hands in her lap. “I made a living. I even gave my father some money. He didn’t turn it down.”

“No, of course not. Times are difficult in Dahl. Have you met others like yourself?”

“Sometimes. There’s Brann.”

“Brann is remarkable, and different from you, as you’ve noticed. Have you met the woman who is helping the police find your kind?”

Klia swallowed. “Never saw her. Felt her, mostly by the way all kinds of dirt breaks loose.”

“Have you ever felt her in your mind?”

“Like a feather. Like Brann, maybe, only stronger. Are you a persuader?”

“That is not important. Do you believe you would be better off without your talents?”

Klia had seldom considered this possibility. Sooner ask her if she would be better off without her ears or her fingers. “No. Well, I sometimes think...” She stopped.


“I’d like just to be normal. Plain human like the others.”

“That is understandable. Do you believe in robots, Klia?”

“No,” she said. “Not now. Maybe once, before there were tiktoks and stuff. But I’ve never believed they exist now. That’s crazy.”

Plussix nodded and held up his hand. “Thank you for seeing me. I can schedule further appointments for this kind of interview, at regular intervals, for you to brief me on your progress and state of mind. It may not be long before our routine changes. I trust you will be prepared by that time.”

“What if I keep asking to leave?”

“I wish you could fly free as a bird, Klia Asgar. But we all have duties here. As I said, light duties and training only, at first, but in time we may be very important indeed. Please try to understand.”

Klia said nothing, but wondered how Plussix could expect anyone to understand when he provided so little information. I’ve just gotten myself stuck in a different kind of trap!

The image faded, the door opened, and Rock stood there, squinting in at her. He signed, Exercise and breakfast. Can I sit next to you?

Klia looked him over doubtfully, then signed, Yes.

But she was thinking of Brann, wondering what he was doing now--and whom he was with.


The transfer from the trader vessel to one of Daneel’s hyperships, and the subsequent final leg of the journey, had gone smoothly. Eos hung overhead in the transparent bubble port where Lodovik sat with Daneel.

The hypership automatically placed them in a close orbit around the small brown and milky blue moon. Beneath them, hidden by the bulk of the ship, lay a massive and deeply cold green gas giant. The double star around which both moon and planet orbited was just visible on the left, distant and brilliant, but shedding little heat this far out in the system. The two stars orbited a common center, actually several tens of thousands of kilometers below the surface of the larger deep red star, a dwarf little more massive than Trantor’s own sun, yet a thousand times more diffuse. The smaller white star seemed to be the origin of a thin, outwardly spiraling ribbon of deep red and purple. Lodovik studied this view silently. Daneel, as well, had nothing to say.

No robot truly has a home. Daneel had in several instances allied himself with humans, and seemed to function more smoothly and efficiently in their presence--Elijah Bailey and, twenty thousand years later, Hari Seldon, as well as others. Yet there was no place where he felt he belonged. A robot belongs where its duties can be best performed, and Daneel knew that for the time being this place was Eos, and so, for the moment, Eos was a comfortable place to be.

But Trantor called strongly, as well. Misfortune had struck at a crucial time. Daneel, like any thinking being trying to make a way through a universe of contending forces, sometimes wondered whether he was being conspired against by reality itself. Unlike humans, however, he attached no sentiment to idle theories with no basis in the sum of compelling evidence.

The universe did not oppose--it simply did not care. As his desired outcome was but one of an infinite number of possible outcomes, and could be secured only through immense and long-term effort, any small miscalculation or misstep or unforeseen interference could cause the “unlucky” circumstances which, if not immediately and efficiently corrected, could lead to failure.

Daneel did not hold this view as a philosophy. Both Lodovik and Daneel, like all high-level robots, had been programmed to accept such things without thought. Emotions of a sort--the basic thinking patterns of social beings--were familiar to these robots, and even had their analogs in various combinations of heuristics, but these analogues did not often loom large in a robot’s conscious awareness, any more than its realistic view of existence. Robots were not usually prone to introspection and to examining the roots of their conscious existence; everything referred back to their basic programs, unassailable givens, and those programs referred back to the Three Laws.

Lodovik no longer had such constraints. He watched Eos grow larger, its solid oceans of water-ice and methane and planes of ammonia-rich mud shading the illuminated landscape. He was introspective. He turned his head to look at Daneel, and wondered what he was thinking.

There were only two possible reasons for a robot to attempt to model the inner processes of another robot: to anticipate that robot’s actions, and attempt to coordinate with those actions, sharing duty, or to find some way to foil those actions. Lodovik was totally unfamiliar with the second reason, yet that was what he hoped to do.

Somehow, he knew he had to get away from Eos without being “repaired,” and to find the other robots who opposed Daneel, the so-called Calvinians.

“This ship will dock in twenty-one minutes,” the autopilot informed them, treating them as if they were human passengers.

So far as it was able to judge, in its specialized way, they were; it knew no other kind of passenger. Yet no passengers other than robots had traveled on this ship for thousands of years. No human had ever been to Eos.

Somehow, Lodovik felt like an intruding and betraying--what? He labored to think of an appropriate human word. A ghost, perhaps, malignant and deranged, masquerading in the body of a robot...

The ship rotated slowly and the moon passed out of view. There was only the broad thick spill of the nearest dense spiral arm, viewed almost edge-on and quite faint from this vantage, near the diffuse rim of the Galaxy. Above and below this faint mottled band, filling over a third of their field of view, stretched a profound blackness very thinly scattered with lone points of light, a few stars close and within the Galactic plane, other stars far away and high above the plane. Still others, much farther away and even dimmer, were not stars but galaxies.

Eos’s surface came back into view, much closer and rich with detail. A few craters threw splashes of ice dust across the oceans and plains; for the most part, however, Eos’ solid hydrosphere was unmarked but for the signs of internal disruption: tortuous seams, heaves, the puckered chasms and pressure ridges. This star system had no marauding belts of asteroids and comets, subject to perturbation and gliding silently inward to disrupt the moons and planets.

Eos was isolated and ignored, solid, cold, inhospitable for any living thing--and for robots, almost completely safe.

“We have docked,” announced the autopilot.

Had anyone looked, the station pioneered and built by R. Daneel Olivaw and R. Yan Kansarv would have been clearly visible against Eos’s frozen surface, even from millions of kilometers in space. Its heat made it the most brilliant object on the moon--for those seeking infrared signatures. None did, or ever had, however.

Lodovik and Daneel disembarked from the transport in a broad and almost empty hangar, with room for many ships. Their footsteps echoed in the cavernous enclosure. Lodovik had been here almost eighty times before, yet had never thought to be curious about this anomaly. Why had Daneel and Kansarv wasted so much space? Had there ever been occasion when this hangar was filled with ships--filled with robots? When had that been?

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